Impact of Social Security COLA on CalWORKs and CalFresh

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued information to County Welfare Departments (CWDs) that Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients will receive a Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) effective December 30, 2022, and payable January 1, 2023. Depending on household composition, it will impact the CalWORKs grant and/or CalFresh benefit amount.

Social Security and SSI recipients will receive an 8.7% COLA effective January 1, 2023. Counties must give timely and adequate notice when the CalWORKs grant or the CalFresh benefit amount is adjusted because of a due to Social Security COLA.

For new CalWORKs and CalFresh applicants, the Social Security benefit amount, including the COLA increase, will be used to determine eligibility January 2023.

The Social Secuity COLA is considered reasonably anticipated income. The Social Security COLA is considered “known to the county” and shall be acted upon mid-period. Counties must take county-initiated mid-period action to adjust benefits effective January 1, 2023, for all cases in which Social Security benefits are being used to determine the CalWORKs grant or CalFresh benefit. For cases with a report due in December 2022, counties will include the COLA amount in the budget for the upcoming Semi-Annual Reporting (SAR) payment period.

CalWORKs cases subject to Annual Reporting/Child Only (AR/CO) rules, the amount of the SSA COLA will be considered “known to the county” and acted upon mid-period.

If counties do not decrease the CalWORKs grant or CalFresh benefit amount as a result of the increased January 2023 Social Security payment, they must reduce grant amounts in the month after they give timely and adequate notice.  In those cases, there will be an overpayment or overissuance for January.

SSI payments are exempt in CalWORKs; however, income should still be updated for excluded assistance unit (AU) members.  (ACIN I-72-22, November 8, 2022 and I-72-22E, January 4, 2023.)